Brazil: More than Just Carnivals

Being the most prominent country in South America, a huge democracy that is today considered one of the fastest emerging economies (BRIC), Brazil also has a diverse history that led to its being one of the richest cultures in the world. It constitutes an interesting mix between the Indians, Portuguese and Africans that inhibited the country during the colonial period who were later joined by Italians, Germans, Spaniards, Arabs and Japanese who immigrated to Brazil in masses during the 19thand 20th centuries.

Although the local population constitutes the largest catholic population in the world, elements of many other religions have blended into the Brazilian Catholic Church system. Even the notorious traditional Carnival is actually a celebration marks the beginning of Lent. Carnivals are held in a number of large cities, but the largest of them all takes place in Rio de Janeiro. The city then turns into a whirlpool of tradition, music, dancing and colorful costumes, and attracts tourists from all over the world.

Brazil has a long history of economic ups and downs, and similar to its other South American neighbors, it is contending with issues such as sky-rocketing inflation and high debt. When the current president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (nicknamed Lula) was elected, he promised to bridge the gaps between the rich and poor. These gaps are partially a result of most arable land being in the ownership of a handful of upperclassmen. Currently, approximately one third of the population endures a life of poverty. In the two years since he took office, Lula has already succeeded in significant reforms such as ambitious investment plans, changing the pension system and raising minimum wages.

Following an attempt to populate the Amazon Region in the 1970’s, the forests suffered serious damages. By 2005 Brazil’s government had declared that due to forest clearing, already a fifth of the Amazon Forests which populate the widest variety of living creatures in the world, have been destroyed. Since then, there has been an effort to control illegal logging, but it seems that efforts are not improving the situation. Still, Brazil has many natural resources, including iron ores and a plentitude of oil, allowing it almost full economic independence in that realm.